With the retirement of Chef Albert Schlaepfer earlier this year, the Amber Grill is pleased to announce that former Sous Chef Matthew Zortman has accepted the position of executive chef at the Amber Grill in the Holiday Inn Hotel & Convention Center in Stevens Point.
“I have always been enamored with cooking,” Chef Matthew said. “As a child I can remember spending my summer afternoons watching cooking shows and trying to copy what those chefs were preparing.”
As all the best chefs do, Chef Matthew started at the bottom, washing dishes. By the time he was 20 years old, he was part of the opening crew at the Gyros and Kabob House in Stevens Point. He then moved to Wisconsin Dells and started cooking at the Kalahari Resorts.
“I discovered my true passion for professional cooking there,” Chef Matthew said. “The lessons I learned from that team of chefs was invaluable.”
When he moved back to Stevens Point, Chef Matthew quickly became part of the Amber Grill staff, working as a line cook under Chef Albert, earning a promotion to Sous Chef in 2015.
“Working at the Amber Grill was a great opportunity, and I dove in,” Chef Matthew said. “As I rose up through the ranks, the mentoring I received from Chef Albert was amazing.”
A Restaurant and a Convention Center
Being the chef at any successful restaurant takes a lot of hard work. Being the head chef at a restaurant and a convention center is even harder, presenting its own set of unique challenges.
“The balancing act between banquets and the restaurant is often tricky,” Chef Matthew said. “The restaurant is like the face of your organization that you present to the public. But the banquets section needs a lot of attention, as well. Knowing which one needs your attention right now is the key. Having great banquet managers and restaurant managers makes everything run more smoothly, as does having a well-trained staff.”
Chef Matthew’s goal with the Amber Grill is to keep things fresh and fun.
“Some food needs to be comfortable and familiar, some needs to be silly and fun and delicious, and some needs to challenge people’s ideas of what food is and what it can be. I hope to bring some of those ideals to the Amber Grill’s menu.”
While many of the Amber Grill’s classic menu items remain—such as the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos, Tenderloin Bites, and our award-winning BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs—Chef Matthew has also added some delectable and exciting treats, such as the Beer Battered Asparagus appetizer, the Cali pizza, and the Pork Tenderloin Chilaquiles entrée.
The Asparagus is already a favorite with the Amber Grill staff, and the Chilaquiles offer a new twist on what is often considered Mexican comfort food. In this dish, tortilla strips are tossed in a red sauce with peppers, onions, and chorizo, then the whole thing is topped with sliced pork and a citrus cilantro hollandaise. The dish was inspired by Chef Matthew’s time working in the Dells.
“Pork is one of my favorite meats to cook with, and melding Mexican comfort food with a French sauce is my idea of perfection,” he said.
One of the Amber Grill’s signature dishes is the Amberger, a build-your-own hamburger that includes ingredients sourced here in Wisconsin.
“Choose between our signature prime rib, a 1/3-pound Hereford beef patty,” Chef Matthew said “chicken breast or a black bean burger, then pick your carb (pretzel roll, sourdough, marble rye, sourdough or gluten-free). We also offer seven types of Wisconsin-made cheeses and a variety of savory sauces, so you can create your perfect Amberger.
Chef Matthew shys away from certain food descriptions.
“I personally don’t like terms such as ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic.’ When you can’t change a single aspect of a dish, it dies. It becomes old and stale, and it’s no longer interesting. Cooking should bring together things that you love to hopefully create something new and surprising and savory. As a chef, you have to fill many roles—doctor, lawyer, therapist. But my favorite roles are student and teacher.”
Amber Grill is located at 1001 Amber Avenue in Stevens Point and is attached to the Holiday Inn Hotel & Convention Center. For reservations call 715-344-9808, or visit the restaurant’s website at ambergrill.net